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(506) 2223-1327       Published Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009,  Vol. 9, No. 38       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Modern life hasn't been kind to the Tico legends
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

These are tough times for Costa Rican legendary characters. The world seems to have caught up with them.

Take the terrible El Cadejos, the giant black dog
with teeth of a jaguar and feet of a goat dragging a chain. Time was when Cadejos used to prowl the darkened lanes scaring the wits out of drunks and others who should have been home in bed.

El Cadejos made the mistake of wandering into Pavas one night, and they robbed him of his chain. The beast was lucky to escape with its spirit, and all it does now is shiver in an alley off Avenida Una.
La Tulevieja

The problems with the Carreta sin Bueyes is more technical. This is the cart of the driver who insulted God and has been forced to travel the empty streets for eternity. The driver's bueyes or oxen refused to trespass on holy ground and were spared the same fate. Today the poor cart is in disrepair thanks to the state of the nation's roads, and the poor driver is close to the point of carrying the oxcart on his back. Not only that, the driver has been stopped three times for failing to have a revision tecnica inspection sticker on his vehicle.
Now nearly everyone fears La Cegua, the beautiful woman who allows herself to be picked up only to be transformed into an awful creature with a fatal kiss. She, too, encourages male Costa Ricans to return home early. She was pounded by a half dozen Dominican ladies of the evening who mistook her intent and thought she was intruding on their territory.

La Llorona has quit crying and may be seeking a political job in the next administration. She is the specter who in life underwent an abortion and was condemned to wander weeping for her unborn child, also for eternity.

Well, she wandered into the women's institute where she was convinced she was only exercising her right of choice. Now she is happier.

La Tulevieja, the phantom woman with the tule leaf hat, used to spend her time collecting wood along the rivers and streams of the Central Valley. That was before the environmental police caught up with her and nailed her for illegal timber hauling.

Modern life has pretty well taken the sting out of the old legendary creatures whose main goal was to keep Costa Ricans on the straight and narrow. And the poor ghosts are having self esteem problems.

Not so the brujas de Escazú, the real witches, not the soccer team. There has been a membership explosion among the witches with the arrival of more and more new age expats.

Heredia embarks on an ambitous sewer project
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Heredia's utility company will invest $180 million in a sewage treatment plant and some 500 kilometers (311 miles) of collector lines to service eight of the province's 10 cantons.

The project was launched this weekend with a promise by the central government to provide $30 million towards the cost.

The project is that of the Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia S.A. and it may be the biggest public works project in the history of the province.

The treatment plant is proposed to handle 100,000 cubic meters of inflow every day.

The cantons involved are Belén, Barva, Flores,
Santo Domingo, Heredia, San Isidro, San Pablo and San Rafael. The company plans to start work in 2010 in the areas of greatest population density. The proposal is to reduce drastically the number of septic tanks and eliminate the pollution of the local rivers and streams with human waste.

Some 370,000 persons will be affected.

The funds will be handled in a trust with Banco Nacional.

The announcement of the project puts Heredia abreast of San José in installing a sewer plant. The Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados has a massive plan afoot to construct its own plant west of San José. The company is at the stage of pre-qualifying construction companies to do some of the work.

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new patrol cars
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Fuerza Pública brass congratulate each other as they receive a donation of patrol cars Monday from the People's Republic of China.

Decree gives police force
broad community role

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security minister's plan for fighting the growing crime problem is to get police officers more involved in the communities they serve. She said that this would include protection of the environment, education, public health and
Minister del Vecchio
Minister del Vecchio
urban infrastructure and illumination.

The security minister, Janina del Vecchio, issued a decree Monday that stressed police-community relations.  The decree comes close to the concept of the neighborhood police beat. Police should organize by sectors or quadrants where the police can provide personalized attention and police also should conduct a census of lives and customs of each community, learn
the residents  by name and determine the type of incidents in the area, said the decree.

The decree also says that each police station should appoint a local coordinator whose job is the implementation of the decree.

In addition, regional and canton police officials should attend the meetings of the local municipal councils in their area, said the decree. And every two months, the police officials have to submit a report on the effort.

The minister said that local police officials should seek space in the news media to inform the public about the actions of the Fuerza Pública.

She also called on police to restore the fundamental values, including discipline and respect for the chain of command.

The 10-page decree generally outlines the activities of a very competent police force where the officers have close ties to the community, cannot be corrupted and respect all the rules and regulations.

In many troubled areas, police are not even safe within their stations and a walking tour of the community would result in injury. The minister did not address this point.

Ms. Del Vecchio said she was unable to deny the influence of narcotraffickers from Colombia to México and the organized crime that has resulted in murders.  However, she said Costa Rica was better off than its neighbors.,

She also said that these problems were long-standing and that Costa Rica has had problems of insecurity for 30 years.

She said that the municipalities of the country, the Ministerio de Educación Pública, the Patronato de la Infancia and the communications media should fight against crime.

The minister also incorrectly cited the nation's murder rate as 7.7 murders per 100,000 persons. The rate actually is 9.65 per 100,000 based on a population of 4.5 million as reported by the Instituto de Estadísticas y Censo and the Judicial Investigating Organization report of 435 killed in 2008.

She said the rate in El Salvador was 67.8 per 100,000 inhabitants and that the rate in Nicaragua was 12.5. She did not list a source.

U.S. bankrolls magazine
that flatters minister

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The security minister said Monday she is content with the magazine Voces that appears to present flattering reports on her. The magazine is supported by a grant to a foundation by the government of the United States.

The Spanish-language daily La Nación reported on the magazine Monday, and the minister, Janina del Vecchio, was asked about it at a press conference held Monday for another purpose.

She declined to call the publication a magazine and referred to it as an informative bulletin, which, she said, has been publishing since other administrations. The newspaper said the first issue was earlier this year and that the minister sent copies to lawmakers. She was on the cover.

The U.S. Southern Command seems to have paid more than $1 million to a foundation here to promote human rights. According to the minister, the money had been used for training as well as the magazine.

The U.S. Embassy has not made any announcements about the money being provided to a local foundation here.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 38

Lawmakers vote to allow ICE to borrow $500 million
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature voted Monday to allow the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad borrow $500 million from the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo to pay for power development through 2014.

The company known as ICE said that the money would be used to construct power substations, high tension lines and refurbish power plants.

The central government immediately praised the vote by the lawmakers. The Asamblea Legislativa is expected to make a second and final vote Thursday.

The vote was not without discussion.  José Merino del Río of Frente Amplio said he was opposed to issuing blank checks and that this probably was the last such loan that he
would support.  Eight lawmakers voted against the plan.  Libertario Mario Núñez said he was not opposed to the plan but also hopes that other possibilities like concessions for power production would be considered.

Officials expect power needs to increase about 5 to 6 percent each year, but some opponents suggest that the government also is interested in selling power to adjacent countries.

ICE has been stripped of its telecommunications monopoly, and there also is limited private power generation in Costa Rica.

Two other measures are now in the legislature to change the ground rules for private power generation and also generation by rural cooperatives. ICE is by far the largest producer.

various birds at museum
Stone, clay and gold birds from the collection of the Museos del Banco Central
Museum plans exhibit of bird sculptures from native past
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

It may come as a surprise to animal lovers that the bird with the most representation in recovered examples of pre-Columbian sculpture is not the parrot but the vulture. And that appears to be true throughout the archaeological history of Costa Rica.

This is according to the Museos del Banco Central, which is mounting a new exhibit with more than 100 examples of bird sculptures done by the ancestors of native Costa Ricans.
The exhibit opens May 1.

In all some 18 families of birds are found represented in stone, jade, ceramic and gold among the vast holdings of the museum.

The exhibit will seek to answer some questions, such as: Why were the birds represented so frequently and what were the symbolisms, the museum said. The exhibit is being staged with the help of an archaeologist and an ornithologist.
Patricia Fernández, the archaeologist, said that there is little information over why certain birds were represented in the pre-Columbian materials, and this exhibit is designed to add to the knowledge with the help of biological information.

Some 42 of the objects on display are from the Museo Nacional. Also included are maps of migratory routes taken by some birds and many photos, said the museum.

The exhibit also hopes to tackle the cultural questions and the use of the local bird populations, including some that were domesticated as pets.

Some findings are being incorporated into a book.

The museum is below the Plaza de la Cultura in downtown San José. Admission is 1,500 colons (less than $3, for Costa Ricans and residents. Tourists pay $9. Wednesdays and the first Sunday of the month are free days for locals. The museum houses one of the largest collections of pre-Columbian gold.

Municipalities told to make their buildings accessible to disabled persons
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Six municipalities in Puntarenas province and a regional health ministry office have six months to be brought into compliance with accessibility standards, the Sala IV constitutional court said. The decision was released Monday.

Involved are the municipalities of Aguirre, Parrita, Montes de Oro, Orotina, Garabito and San Mateo. Also
cited was the central Pacific office of the Ministerio de Salud.

The case was brought by a man who said that the municipal buildings did not comply with the existing laws for access by the disabled, and the court agreed.

If municipal officials do not make the necessary changes, they could be subject to prison or fines, the Poder Judicial noted.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 38

Economic troubles could challenge leadership of Chávez
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A referendum victory in Venezuela has opened the door for President Hugo Chávez to seek indefinite re-election and forge ahead with his socialist-inspired policies.

Critics say he is unprepared for looming economic troubles which could challenge his hold on power.

Chávez did not give up after the defeat of a 2007 referendum to end term limits for elected officials.  

He called for a new ballot earlier this month, which would allow him to remain in office as long as he wins re-election.

Chavez stated, "With today's victory, we start the third cycle of the Bolivarian revolution, from 2009 to 2019."

In his victory speech, Chéavez said, if elected in 2012 to a third term, he will work to rebuild all of the government's institutions.

In the past 10 years, Chávez has built broad support among Venezuela's poor, thanks to extensive social spending.

Government oil revenues are used to provide healthcare, cheap food and jobs to scores of people.

Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue says people in those programs gave the needed votes.

"This demonstrates that despite the problems in Venezuela, he still has support. He still has connections to a lot of Venezuelans, and he still has enough money to distribute to make people feel that their situation is getting better," he said.

Oil prices, however, are down. Industry experts say those losses will especially hurt Venezuela, which relies on oil for 90 percent of its foreign trade.
Some opposition leaders say the dip in oil revenues may lead to a economic crisis, cutting political support for the government.

Pedro Mena campaigned against the referendum in Miami. He predicted that, "The economic crisis will be so severe that many sectors that traditionally voted for Chavez will have no choice but to back the opposition in the future."

Opposition leaders say political support for the president already has begun to erode. Opposition candidates won several state and municipal elections last year.

Now, opposition leaders are looking forward to next year's elections in the national assembly, where the government holds a strong majority. Mena says an opposition victory could derail Chavez's hopes for re-election in 2012.
Mena added, "The future of Venezuela is at stake in the national assembly elections, because the outcome of each assembly seat will reflect whether the government or opposition has more support."

The Chávez government has forged ties with leftist leaders in Latin America, and allied itself with Iran and Russia. Critics say Chávez is a polarizing force in the region.
He was a vocal critic of former President George W. Bush, but he has used a softer tone with President Barack Obama.

Shifter says Caracas will pose a serious challenge for the new U.S. president, especially if Venezuela's economy begins to sour.

He stated, "I think the underlying problems are serious and likely to get worse. The United States should pursue its relationships and alliances with other countries in Latin America."

The first show of President Obama's approach to Venezuela will come in April, during a summit of American heads of state.

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San José, Costa Rica, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 38

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This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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Scientists will get profile
from Pacific with drilling

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

In early March, an international team of scientists will set sail aboard the drill ship JOIDES Resolution on the first of two ocean drilling expeditions to the equatorial Pacific.

The second expedition will follow immediately afterward in May. Both are grouped into one science program, known as the Pacific Equatorial Age Transect.

The results will lead to a clearer understanding of Earth's climate over the past 55 million years — a vital component to knowing what future course the planet's climate will take, scientists believe.

"These expeditions focused on climate change come at a critical time," said Julie Morris, director of the National Science Foundation's Division of Ocean Sciences, which supports the drilling program. "During the next year, sea-floor drilling related to climate change will happen from pole to pole."

The PEAT expeditions aim to recover a continuous record from 65.5 million years ago to the present in sediments beneath the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Geologists will drill into the crust on the Pacific tectonic plate along the equator.

The first research effort is planned for March 5 through May 5. The second will take place from May 5 through July 5.

Earlier scientific ocean drilling expeditions to the equatorial Pacific yielded discoveries about past climate conditions and the past position of the Pacific tectonic plate relative to the equator. However, they did not obtain continuous sediment records that the two expeditions are expected to recover.

Over the last 55 million years, global climate has varied dramatically from extreme warmth to glacial cold. These climate variations have been imprinted on the sediments that accumulated in the equatorial zone.

Philadelphia print papers
file for debt reorganization

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Two U.S. newspapers have filed for bankruptcy, the latest blow for the country's struggling newspaper industry.

Philadelphia Newspapers, owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, said it filed the motion Sunday to protect the company while it restructures $390 million in debt.  Both newspapers say they will continue publishing during the restructuring.

The move came a day after the Journal Register Co., publisher of 20 daily newspapers, also filed for bankruptcy.

Jo Stuart
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